But to Mike Perry, this one was huge.

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

But to Mike Perry, this one was huge.

See, while the rest of the Golden Flashes were actively taking part in the most memorable season in school history a year ago, Perry was stuck on the sideline nursing a foot injury he sustained during preseason practice.

His foot hurt.

But his pride hurt much worse.

"That was probably the hardest thing I've ever gone through," said Perry, who was redshirted after missing the entire 1998-99 season. "As a basketball player, that's what you live for."

And that's why simply contributing to Kent's rather sloppy 89-73 triumph over Brazil on Tuesday meant so much to the former Barberton High School star.

"I've been looking forward to this day," said Perry, with a wide-eyed youthful smile. "I was a little nervous, but more excited than anything else. It feels good to be a part of Kent basketball again."

Perry played a huge role on the 1997-98 squad as a true freshman, starting every game and averaging six points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

He was penciled into the starting lineup once again entering last season until he suffered the freak non-contact injury, a stress fracture, which forced him to wear a walking boot all winter.

But to Perry's credit, he didn't sulk.

Instead, he ate.

"I ate everything. Junk food, you name it," said the slender 6-foot-9 forward, who weighed 204 pounds as a freshman. "I didn't have to worry about being in shape for practice, so I tried to pack it on."

And that he did.

Perry has piled on 25 pounds and is far stronger than he's ever been thanks to some quality time spent in the weight room.

"I hit the weights every day," said Perry. "That's all I had to do. I wanted to come back stronger than ever so I kept working hard, and it's paying off."

Perry, like the rest of the Flashes, was a little rusty on Tuesday.

His putback gave Kent a quick 21-14 lead which was increased to 50-25 by halftime. But the Flashes let Brazil hang around by making just half of their free throws (13-of-26) and committing 17 fouls and 13 turnovers in the second half.

"That's bad," bluntly stated Kent coach Gary Waters. "We were up by 25 and we should have won by 25. We've shot free throws every day in practice and we've shot 'em well, so I don't know what happened there. That's one thing we've got to work on, and the other is not fouling so much because that'll kill you when you play somebody good."

Still there were positives. Junior point guard Andrew Mitchell racked up 12 points and five assists while breaking down the defense at will, and sophomore guard Trevor Huffman tossed in 15 points in just 20 minutes.

And, perhaps most important of all, Perry was back where he belongs in the middle of all the action.

"The way we played tonight was disappointing, but I couldn't help but smile a little," he grinned. "It just felt so great to be back in our house playing again. It was great to be back home."

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